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WBTV pulling plug on ‘Carolina Camera’

By Mark Washburn
Mark Washburn
Mark Washburn writes television and radio commentary for The Charlotte Observer.

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  • Charlotte newscasts

    Estimated viewers reached by key newscasts during the May sweeps and percentage change from same period last year as measured by Nielsen.

    6 A.M.
    WSOC92,300+13%
    WBTV48,000+8%
    WCNC24,000-16%
    WCCB12,700+45%
    NOON
    WBTV75,500Unchg.
    WSOC63,500+12%
    WCNC17,500+80%
    6 P.M.
    WSOC105,400Unchg.
    WBTV67,600-3%
    WCNC53,200+37%
    NETWORK NEWSCASTS
    ABC102,000-2%
    NBC80,591+37%
    CBS69,300-4%
    10 P.M.
    WAXN50,500+40%
    WCCB27,900-27%
    WJZY*13,200-41%
    11 P.M.
    WSOC88,200-6%
    WBTV70,100-5%
    WCNC29,100+15%

    *10 p.m. newscast in 2013 was carried on WMYT (Channel 55).

    WASHBURN’S ANALYSIS: WCNC (Channel 36), which has been without a full-time general manager or news director since January, saw gains in several key newscasts during May sweeps, possibly as a result of sampling by new viewers during the Winter Olympics, though it didn’t see matching gains after the 2012 Olympics. WSOC (Channel 9) had an excellent sweeps period, winning key newscasts in the 25-54 age demographic favored by advertisers. Last summer’s network affiliate swap – Fox from WCCB (Channel 18) to WJZY (Channel 46) and CW vice-versa – continues to be felt in the 10 p.m. news ratings, where independent station WAXN (Channel 64) has continued to widen its lead. WAXN, whose 10 p.m. weekday newscast follows the syndicated “Dr. Phil” show, surges 105 percent in viewers when the newscast begins. WJZY’s 10 p.m. news, which follows Fox’s prime time, loses 78 percent of its lead-in audience on average. WCCB, which carries CW network programs before weekday news, sees viewing surge 46 percent when the newscast comes on.


It’s time to close the shutter once more on “Carolina Camera.”

WBTV (Channel 3), which reincarnated its traveling feature program four years ago and made it into a monthly prime-time series hosted by morning anchors John Carter and Christine Nelson and produced by Kevin Marlow, is canceling it.

It was doing well, says news director Dennis Milligan, but the station has decided to use the people who worked on the show on other things. No jobs are being cut, he says.

“We can use that manpower for better and stronger news in other time periods,” he says. Carter and Nelson have already expanded their morning duties by doing a two-hour newscast from 7 to 9 a.m. on WBTV’s subchannel 3.2, which carries the Bounce channel.

Also going away is “The Point After,” the Sunday night sports program hosted by Delano Little. It was launched about six years ago and featured call-ins from fans, particularly during the Panthers season. “It was a challenge because you’d sometimes get somebody who enjoyed the game a little too much,” Milligan says.

Advertising demand for the show was relatively weak because of the late hour of the broadcast, often pushed after midnight when NFL games in the early evening ran late, he says. One benefit of the change is being able to use Little more nights a week on the 8 p.m. WBTV news show he anchors with Brigida Mack, also on the Bounce channel, because he doesn’t have to work Sunday nights, Milligan says.

“Carolina Camera,” chronicling the quirky corners of the two states, has had a long life on WBTV.

Launched by C.J. Underwood in 1970, it focused on stories about unusual people and places in the Carolinas. It faded away in the mid-’90s, replaced by more serious fare. WCNC (Channel 36) copied it with an eight-year run of the “Carolina Traveler” series with Mike Redding and photographer Andy Benton, but it was canceled in 2009.

Other reporters who’d hosted “Carolina Camera” through the years included Mark Garrison, Ken Eudy and Andrew Schorr.

One of Carter’s favorite stories – he says they’re all his favorites – was when he returned to Tweetsie Railroad and got back in to the marshal costume for a day, re-creating the role he played in a summer job during college. He’s just wrapped another story on a 103-year-old Rock Hill woman who still lives in her own house, goes bowling and dancing and doesn’t take any medicines.

They are working on the final insallments for the program. One airs at 9 p.m. Monday on Channel 3 and four will be shown in June. Then that’s it – for a while, at least.

“It’ll be back,” says Carter. “People love ‘Carolina Camera.’ 

Media Movers

WFNZ-AM (“Fan” 610) parts ways with “The Drive” with Marc James in afternoon drive time. James took over the show solo after his partner Taylor Zarzour departed in December for his own show, “Bleacher Report” middays on Sirius Radio. WFNZ operations manager D.J. Stout says he’s hoping to have a new show in place by July. “I want someone who has a passion for sports in this area,” Stout says. …

Two weddings this weekend in the WSOC (Channel 9) newsroom: Tenikka Smith and Natalie Pasquarella. … Fox NASCAR analysts Darrell Waltrip and Jeff Hammond will be taking advantage of a slow day at the track on Saturday to attend the weddings of their daughters. Neither realized their respective daughters were getting married on the same day until a few weeks ago. “How many wedding invitations do men open when they arrive in the mail, much less look at the date and realize they were on the same day?” Waltrip says. “None.” …

WSOC morning anchor Peter Daut won a first-place award from the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery for his “9 Investigates: Lifestyle Lift” about the advertising and marketing strategy of the cosmetic surgery program and patient safety issues behind the procedure. Daut and co-anchor Allison Latos will host a roundup of their investigative specials from May sweeps at 8 p.m. Wednesday. …

Brittney Cason, the former Panthers cheerleader who held a variety of positions at CBS Radio in Charlotte, heads to Las Vegas for a new radio job. She says she’ll be able to tell details when the job is formally announced in a few weeks. …

New officers for the American Advertising Federation/Charlotte include Theckla Pope and Jonathan Piscitelli, co-presidents; Brandon Kirby, treasurer; Shruti Chandra, secretary; and Alexis Acosta, Addy awards chairwoman. …

Miss Gaston County 2013, Hannah Webb, is scheduled to appear on the “American Bible Challenge,” 8 p.m. Thursday on Game Show Network. … WIXE-AM (1190) adds John Tesh’s show weekday evenings and Saturday afternoons.

Washburn: 704-358-5007
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